DETROIT — Detroit Pistons general manager Troy Weaver didn’t want to overthink the first pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
He did what everyone expected and grabbed Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham.
“This was almost anti-climactic because everyone had him first in their mock drafts,” he said with a smile. “He gives our roster so much flexibility because we can play him in the frontcourt or the backcourt. That and his leadership — he’s a human connector -- are two of the things that put him over the top.”
Cunningham, the Big 12 Player of the Year and a consensus first-team All-American as a freshman, averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists while leading the Cowboys to a 21-9 record and their first NCAA Tournament berth in four years.
The 6-foot-8 ball-handling guard will add another weapon to a Detroit lineup that had four players aged 21 or younger in their rotation last season.
Two of the four, Killian Hayes and Saben Lee, are pass-first guards who could play alongside Cunningham in a lineup with leading scorer Jeremi Grant (22.3 ppg), and two 2021 All-Rookie selections, 3-point specialist Saddiq Bey and rebounder Isaiah Stewart.
Grant, who will be 27 this season, will be the only one in that group older than 22.
Weaver said he never got a trade offer that tempted him to move the pick, so Cunningham it was.
“We had 20 wins, so we need multiple players who can handle the ball and make plays for us,” Weaver said. “We have some young guys that really work, and we wanted someone who can blend into that ethos. He definitely brings a lot to the table.”
Detroit hadn’t had the first-overall pick since 1970, when they selected Hall of Famer Bob Lanier out of St. Bonaventure. They won the lottery last month after finishing 20-52 in a season that saw them trade Derrick Rose and buy out Blake Griffin’s contract.
By DAVE HOGG Associated Press